Testimony continues in med-mal trial against nursing home

David Yates Jan. 30, 2008, 9:00am

Clay Dugas

Johnny Limbrick testified on Wednesday, Jan. 29, that it "smelled like an animal had died" inside his mother's room during her stay at a local nursing home.

The Limbrick family claims Alice Limbrick, 94, had to have her legs amputated four years ago because of negligent care while she was in the Green Acres Parkdale nursing home.

As testimony continued in the trial of Roy Limbrick et al vs. Mariner Health Care Inc., Johnny Limbrick also testified that no amount of money could give back his mother's legs and that he and his family were pursuing civil litigation to ensure that justice was done. However, testimony also showed Johnny Limbrick has not held down a steady job in the last eight years and has been mostly unemployed during that time.

The trial began in Judge Milton Shuffield's 136th District Court on Jan. 23 and is expected to conclude in early February.

The defense argues that the decision to amputate Alice Limbrick's legs extended her life and that the measure had to be taken because of Alice's severe medical conditions, extreme old age and the family's joint decisions concerning Alice's care.

According to the plaintiff's petition, filed in the Jefferson County District court on Dec. 19, 2005, Alice Limbrick was admitted to Green Acres for long-term care on June 12, 1995, with multiple health problems. Nearly a decade later, on Nov. 19, 2003, Alice lost her balance and fell while in the TV room, fracturing her left hip.

Testimoney and court documents show Limbrick was admitted to Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas, where she developed pressure ulcers (bed sores) and eight blisters on both heels and left leg. On Dec, 10, 2003, she was discharged back to Green Acres.

A week later, she was readmitted to Baptist Hospital "with a diagnoses of having gangrene on both heels," the plaintiffs' suit said.

The decubitus ulcers to her heels and left leg continued to deteriorate. And on July 5, 2004, Limbrick's legs were amputated below her knees, the suit said.

"While under the care of Green Acres and Baptist Hospital, Alice Limbrick suffered gross abuse, extensive neglect and undue pain," the suit states.

In his opening remarks, plaintiffs' attorney Clay Dugas said one of Alice's heels had "turned to mush."

Before the start of the trial defendant Baptist Hospital reached a settlement with the family.

But defendant Green Acres contends Limbricks's debilitating condition began during her stay with Baptist Hospital, arguing that the blisters she developed at the hospital were a manifestation of deeper tissue damage.

The defense also argues that Alice Limbrick did not heal properly because the family made medical decisions on her behalf that prevented her from obtaining the acute care required for healing. The family authorized a "Do Not Resuscitate" order and chose to send Alice to a hospice instead of an acute care facility, the nursing home argues.

The Limbrick family contends that they were "manipulated" into putting their mother's care in the hospice's hands.

According to opening remarks from both sides, Limbrick suffered from diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, dementia and extremely poor blood circulation.

The defense argues a combination of her medical conditions and old age weakened her immune system, making healing difficult. "The ultimate answer for Alice Limbrick was amputation."

The family and attorney contend that despite her old age, her legs could have been saved had Green Acres nurses turned and repositioned her every two hours.

Johnny Limbrick testified that he would often go and have to ask a nurse to reposition his mother.

"It was a battle to get hospice to treat my mother's wounds…I felt like if they had gun, they would have shot me every time I asked," he added.

The family also argues that Green Acres nurses did not change Limbricks's bandages on a regular basis and that family members often had confrontations with nursing staff regarding the elderly woman's care.

"We are here so that justice is brought out to the light of day so people can know what happens to the elderly at nursing homes," Dugas said.

In the suit, the plaintiffs allege that Green Acres' nurses were negligent in the following ways:

  • Failing to properly monitor, treat and care for the decubitus ulcers, which progressed and worsened while Alice was a resident;
  • Failing to properly assess Alice's risk level in the progression of pressure ulcers;
  • Failing to prevent the progression of Alice's decubitus ulcers;
  • And by failing to prevent infection in Alice's decubitus ulcers.

    The Limbrick family is seeking punitive damages.

    Case No. D176-228

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